869 Bassett Patients Treated for Opioid Use Disorder

In the region served by Bassett Healthcare Network, there has been a worrisome increase in substance-use disorders and overdose cases in recent months. It is a trend that mirrors what has been occurring around the state and the country.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the American Medical Association has reported that more than 35 states have documented increases in opioid-related deaths, including New York.   

Most disturbing is that the fatalities are preventable. Since Bassett’s medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program began in 2017, at least 869 Bassett patients have been treated for opioid use disorder.

As of April 2020, 87 Bassett clinicians across the network have obtained their Drug Addiction Treatment Act waivers, or “X-licenses.”  These include clinicians in primary care, psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology, emergency medicine, and inpatient medicine.

In the past, medical professionals were barred from using one opioid to treat addiction from another opioid. Thanks to a federal law passed in 2002, clinicians may now obtain additional training and receive X-licenses to prescribe buprenorphine and methadone to help patients recover from opioid use disorder.  

“If this article gets one person into an addiction treatment program and saves one life, this is our goal,” said Dr. Joseph Sellers, regional medical director and primary care practitioner at Bassett Health Center Cobleskill.

Dr. Sellers has been an active member of the Cobleskill community for the past 31 years. He and his staff are well versed on the opioid epidemic and effective treatments for addiction. They work very closely with Cobleskill Regional Hospital's emergency department staff to help addicted and at-risk patients.

There is only anecdotal evidence that suggests why COVID-19 might have contributed to greater substance abuse. Regardless of the reasons, overdoses and deaths are occurring and can be prevented. 

Fentanyl-contaminated drugs bought on the streets are often lethal because they can cause the user to stop breathing. 

Fentanyl is a synthetically-made opioid that is much cheaper to produce than other opioids made with opium, which comes from the poppy plant. Opioids are a group of drugs used for treating pain. Other opioids include heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine.

Opioid overdose can occur if you misuse a prescription opioid on purpose, or misuse an illegal drug such as heroin. If you use opioids without medical supervision or recreationally, overdoses can be fatal. 

If a person stops breathing or you suspect an overdose, call 911. Immediate medical attention can save a life. Naloxone is a life-saving drug that helps a person breath again. The brand name for Naloxone is Narcan®. 

This drug is carried by first responders, law enforcement, and is available without a prescription from some pharmacies. In fact, Naloxone kits are provided to patients and families who are at risk upon discharge from the emergency department.

Former director of pharmacy for Cobleskill Regional Hospital, David DeSando, has trained fire departments, police departments, educators, school nurses, those with addictions, and families of addicts on the use of Naloxone. He has distributed 400 doses of Naloxone throughout Schoharie County. He even created a brochure titled “Surviving an Opioid Overdose.” 

The staff at Cobleskill Regional Hospital’s Emergency Department are also trained to recognize and care for patients with opioid use disorder and to provide interventions that can lead to treatment for recovery. 

“We have successfully treated several patients for opioid use disorder and transitioned them into the primary care group for long-term recovery. We are proud of our work with the primary care group to try and reduce the devastation of opioid use disorder on our community,” said Dr. Deb Funk Valois, medical director of emergency services at Cobleskill Regional Hospital.

“What is unique about our lifetime treatment program,” said Dr. Sellers, “is we take care of the whole person from birth to old age including mental health, substance use disorders, and screening for HIV and Hepatitis C.” 

“It is safe to come to us for issues related to addiction. We can offer treatment for withdrawal and begin recovery medications in conjunction with rapid follow-up with the primary care group at our clinic,” said Dr. Funk.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance-use disorder, there is help available:

In crisis? Dial 9-1-1 or the Mobile Crisis Assessment Team (844) 732-6228